[Editors Note: This article was written by Berta Melder.]
Some people say you should never judge a book by its cover. However, the cover is the first thing we see so there’s no surprise it actually affects our decision. When we look for music online, we also see dozens of different album covers. We look at colors, shapes, and logos, and our brain quickly builds associations with a visual image.
Generally, artwork serves as an addition to the actual music. However, artwork that perfectly describes feelings, emotions, and themes of the album can also be a very important means of promotion. A good album cover is what makes people want to buy your record or click a “purchase” button.
It’s not easy to create an outstanding album cover. You need to develop a comprehensive idea based on the audio content, choose the right palette and fonts, and use a relevant technique. However, it doesn’t mean that such a process should necessarily be difficult.
The Importance of Visuals for Your Music
A lot of musicians produce not only audio tracks, but music videos to complement them as well. What is the purpose of a music video? It may seem like its only function is to entertain the audience, but in fact, videos are much more than that. Every video is unique. For our brain, the experience from watching a new video is like visiting a completely new place: There are some landmarks that we see and recall every time we return. Those landmarks remain in our memory. Videos, as well as album covers, are aimed to connect our memory to the song.
Memorable cover art is especially important now because music trends are shifting. Singles have already become the most popular recording format. People buy more and more singles every year. Successful singles enable artists to quickly promote their music on streaming services and digital stores; then they can present a longer, more comprehensive body of work. This is also a reason why albums become so long — they serve as playlists for a listener who is already interested in a certain artist and familiar with their music. As the audience is mostly focused on singles, it becomes especially important to create quality artwork. In terms of marketing, single covers also allow you to establish your brand image.
Visuals make it possible to deliver different non-verbal messages. You can both complement your tracks with an illustration and create an image that will make your listeners think of your music in the future. In order to deliver a clear visual message, designers use different shapes, fonts, and colors. Any color is perceived by the human brain differently. For example, red can be associated with anger or love, depending on other elements of design and the context, while blue creates a feeling of relaxation. Now let’s take a closer look at different components of design.
How to Improve Your Cover
1. Define Your Audience
First, you should try to clearly understand who your audience is. Who are people who come to your shows? What do they like in your music? Of course, you may make your music ‘for everyone’, but your real audience is always a certain group of people who share a musical taste, worldviews, or even have the same habits and live in the same environment.
2. Deliver a Message
A good example of a strong message is The xx’s album I See You:
The cover is minimalistic, just like the band’s style. This cover illustrates the title, as we can see members of the band through a big X, which is their recognizable logo. This cover tells us that The xx becomes more personal, making this album for you and no one else.
Your cover sets the tone for the whole album or single. Quite often, it’s hard to understand what songs are about, and covers can make it clear. However, it doesn’t mean that you should be too literal.
For example, let’s take a look at the legendary Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side Side of the Moon:
Its cover doesn’t depict the moon. Instead, it looks scientific and simple, telling us that we will have to focus on music, listening to it with a clear mind and realizing all its beauty in the process. What is common between the cover and the title is that they both make you want to discover something new.
3. Find a Color Solution
Color is especially important. If your music is uplifting and happy, it makes sense to create a vibrant cover. Any color can make you feel in a certain way. Colors are associated with various emotions, which is a reason why any brand has its own colors.
You may stick with one color, as The Beatles did with their White Album, or you can select shades that complement each other: green and orange, purple and yellow, or different tints of the same color.
Designers use a color wheel to choose a perfect combination. These may be two opposite colors, three colors which follow each other on the wheel, or a triangle of colors.
4. Choose Right Fonts
Fonts also deliver a message and can complement the image of an artist. For example, serif fonts are very serious and traditional. Serif fonts like Cambria or Times New Roman would be a nice choice for classical music, for example. Sans serif fonts look simple and can be used in electronic music, as well as in rock. Various script fonts that imitate handwriting can help you deliver a variety of emotions. They may look playful or messy, giving your audience a hint on your music style.
5. Be Authentic
Your cover not only illustrates your album. It can also explain what do you think about it, and what is the background of this record. For example, Kanye West took a shot with his phone and just added a hand-written provocative comment which immediately begins to tell us about what might be going on in his head. It’s also easy to understand that Ye is a self-focused album.
On the other hand, if your album has taken a lot of time to make, don’t be afraid to invest some time and effort in the cover as well.
A cover of an album or single is a very important detail. It can suggest to your audience about your style or the main topic(s) of your songs. Whether your cover is minimalistic and simple or consists of dozens of little details, it should reflect the concept of your music and describe it visually.
You can make your cover art memorable and interesting by choosing colors and other elements of design which are associated with the right emotions. Be authentic, be creative, and think of what might be interesting to your audience.
Berta Melder is an experienced brand manager, creative writer and enthusiastic blogger. Currently associated with Masterra as a content marketing strategist. She cooperates with different education courses covering a broad range of digital topics as a guest lecturer. Follow her on Twitter.